NEW YORK—Large sugary drinks will be banned from sale at establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, sports stadiums, and delis, the city’s health board ruled on Thursday.
The businesses, defined by those that are given grades by the Department of Health (DOH), will not be able to sell drinks larger than 16 ounces and containing more than 50 calories as of March 2013. Businesses violating the rule will face up to $200 in fines.
Eight of the nine health board members voted in favor of the ban, with Dr. Sixto Caro the lone dissenter. “Most important is adherence to a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
The amendment was introduced in May by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to combat the obesity epidemic. New York City spends $4.7 billion annually on obesity-related medical costs and 64 percent of New Yorkers are obese or overweight, according to the DOH.
“We’ve taken bold action in New York City because obesity is a national epidemic that’s only getting worse, and we’re not just going to wring our hands about it,” said Mayor Bloomberg at a press conference at City Hall after the ruling.
Elliot Hoff, of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a coalition of businesses and individuals claiming more than 250,000 members, called the ban “completely arbitrary.”
He said: “You can still walk into any 7-11 and get the biggest big gulp in the store.”
Hoff said the coalition is exploring what kind of legal action could halt the ruling.
Out of more than 38,000 oral and written comments received by the board, 32,000 were in support and about 6,000 were against, said Susan Klitzman of the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention & Tobacco Control. Those against the ban cite issues such as curtailed freedom; the economic impact on small businesses; and that the policy wouldn’t have an impact because people can still get as much soda, but will have to buy multiple drinks instead of one large drink.
In a presentation before the ruling, Klitzman listed about a dozen scientific studies the board had considered. Some studies suggest smaller serving sizes result in decreased consumption, said Klitzman.
The estimate of 5,000 New Yorkers dying a year from obesity-related problems is compelling, said Dr. Joel Forman, health board member and associate professor of Preventive Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
“I can’t image the board not acting on some other problem that’s killing 5,000 people a year,” he said. “It’s pretty stunning.”
Previous interventions in the public health sphere by the board, such as banning trans fats and smoking inside restaurants, had met with criticism at first, said Dr. Thomas Farley, chair of the board. Over time it becomes “the new norm,” he said.
Forest City Ratner, owner of Barclays Center, the new home of the Brooklyn Nets which opens in two weeks, will be the first major establishment to voluntarily adopt the new policy.
The board is appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Dr. Lynne Richardson, board member and associate professor of emergency medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said the board arrived at their own conclusions after careful contemplation and are not “docile followers” of the mayor.